Evergreen Court adult home, once summer resort, had smoke alarms, sprinklers inspected

Steve Lieberman
Rockland/Westchester Journal News

SPRING VALLEY – The Ramapo village during its summer resort heyday drew city dwellers leaving the hot cement streets of the boroughs for the pools and what was considered country-like surroundings.

Spring Valley had been the Catskills before the upstate resort hotels became popular destinations for city residents in the 1950s. Over the decades, as summer habits changed, some of the once-fancy lodging became facilities for senior citizens and rehabilitation communities for people with addictions and disabilities.

One such destination spot was the Bader's Hotel – which eventually became the Evergreen Court Home for Adults.

The facility burned down Tuesday. One resident and one Spring Valley volunteer firefighter died.

The building on Lafayette Street offered assisted living, nursing home and continuing care for older adults.

The fire remains under investigation as officials said no cause has been determined. The facility had received citations during inspections in recent years. However, during a February inspection, its smoke alarm and sprinkler system were judged up to date.

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More than 100 residents were evacuated by firefighters and police; about two dozen residents were rescued and several were seriously injured.

Facility citations covered services, cleanliness

The Evergreen Court Home for Adults had 200 beds, according to the state Department of Health. The Lafayette Street building offered assisted living, a nursing home, and continuing care for older adults.

The department, responsible for the oversight and surveillance of adult care facilities, cited Evergreen for 27 violations from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2020.

The citations covered environmental standards, such as cleanliness; resident services, such as treatment of clients and paperwork covering state issues and disputes; and ensuring procedures to provide a proper dosage of medications.

There have been no enforcement actions against the operator of the facility during its current reporting period, according to the department's profile on the Lafayette Street facility. The department didn't return requests for more information.

Evergreen also has rooming house and food-service establishment permits from the Rockland Department of Health, which inspects the facility to ensure compliance with the county's sanitary code.

The last inspection for the Food Service Establishment Permit took place on Feb. 24 of this year, when inspectors found minor violations, county spokesperson John Lyon said Tuesday.

Firefighters continue to attack hot spots at 65 Lafayette Street in Spring Valley, March 23, 2021.

Lyon said the facility's smoke alarm and sprinkler system reports, which are not directly overseen by the health department, were reviewed and were up to date at the time of inspection.

The violations included dirty surfaces in the kitchen, dust in the walk-in cooler, and peeling paint on the meat kitchen ceiling, Lyon said. The permit was issued and is valid until Nov. 30.

The last inspection for the Rooming House Permit took place on Dec. 18, 2019, when Lyon said inspectors found four violations:

  • One emergency light did not function.
  • One bathroom sink was rusted.
  • One room had missing bathroom floor tiles.
  • A common bathroom vanity was deteriorated and needed to be replaced.

A letter regarding the four violations was sent on Dec. 19, 2019. The facility was reinspected the following Feb. 18, and all the violations had been corrected so a permit was issued, Lyon said.

Another annual inspection would have taken place in December but was put on hold due to the pandemic.

The village of Spring Valley is responsible for inspecting the building for fire and safety codes and ensuring all zoning is met. The village, which has historically been behind in inspecting commercial buildings and apartments, didn't respond to a request for comment on the inspection results. 

Firefighters battle hot spots at 65 Lafayette Street in Spring Valley, March 23, 2021.

Evergreen's director, Denise Kerr, called the fire an "unspeakable tragedy at Evergreen Court Home and our hearts and prayers go out to all individuals and families who have been impacted."

She said in a statement that all 112 residents are accounted for and management is cooperating with state and local authorities investigating the fire and conducting an internal investigation.

"Our staff was truly heroic in evacuating residents who were inside the building as the fire spread, and we are forever grateful to the first responders whose actions undoubtedly saved lives," she said.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office issued a statement that the "Department of Health staff is on-site to ensure the safe, appropriate transfer of more than 100 residents to other facilities and facilitate proper notification of families."

"On behalf of the family of New York, my heart breaks for those who lost loved ones in the fire, and we pray that anyone else involved is safe," Cuomo said. "The state will continue providing whatever support is needed to ensure that happens."

Evergreen part of Spring Valley transformation

Art Gunther, a retired Journal News editorial page editor, grew up in the village during the summer resort heyday.  

"Spring Valley of my time, the 1940s-50s, and my father's before, was two distinct communities – the summer one and the off-season one," Gunther said.

Gunther, who has written about the Spring Valley of yore, said Spring Valley became the "lower Catskills," tripling in size in the summers when people left the grime and hot cement streets of the five boroughs, like Manhattan and the Bronx.

"Women would come with their children and stay at Bader's, Rubenfeld's, White House on the Lake, many hotels and bungalows," Gunther said. "Their husbands would visit on weekends by bus or Erie train. Local kosher butchers, etc., would serve the needs in summer."

He said during the non-summer months, Spring Valley was a "regular country town with a mix of all races, mostly blue-collar and a fairly busy downtown."

The village fell on hard times after the1960s. Sprawling malls opened and the interstates and the Tappan Zee Bridge brought the families of former summer visitors to live in the Rockland suburbs but not in the Spring Valley downtown.

Once ringed with hotels, the Memorial Park Drive area and Hill section began to deteriorate as the Tappan Zee Bridge and Palisades Interstate Parkway opened in the 1950s and summer resort business ended.

"Properties deteriorated, especially on Prospect Hill, and sub-standard summer hotels and bungalows were illegally converted into all-year housing," he said.

Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police, and investigations. Reach him at slieberm@lohud.com. Twitter: @lohudlegal. Read more articles and bio. Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers.